Sounds like a commercial for a sugary cereal – Kik for Kids! But are all the kids using Kik really kids?
Kik Messenger is a free texting app available for iPhones, Android, Windows, and Blackberry phones. Remember, you don’t need a phone to use iPhone apps; if your child has an iPod touch or an iPad, they can install iPhone apps. Kik is just one of many free texting apps available in the App store.
When I first wrote this up in 2012, I was curious about Kik so I went to the App store to download it. I read the description and noticed there were over 40,000 reviews for the app. That’s a lot and I was curious to see what people had to say. It didn’t take me long to see what the problem is with Kik.
Here are a few screenshots from the reviews page. I’ve removed and blurred the usernames.
Take a look – these comments were all left on just one day and there are thousands more like them. It’s clear that some people blatantly use Kik to send and receive nude pictures. Some call it sexting. Others call it child pornography. I call it creepy.
In the app store now (2015) there aren’t as many recent reviews like the ones I saw back in 2012. Newer reviews I saw were mostly related to recent updates, but I still observed some iffy comments such as “…the one bad thing about it is, random people text you and ask if you wanna see them on their webcam or if you wanna see their nudes…”
While I’m sure that many people use Kik to simply send messages to friends, the fact that it is very popular for sexting leads me to believe it is not a good choice for kids. (Kik also includes an integrated web browser with easy access to inappropriate content for children). Given that there are many other free texting apps available, including iMessage which is already included for iPod touch, I don’t see a need for Kik on a child’s mobile device. Perhaps Kik would be fine for an older teen, but there IS a reason this app is rated 17+, so just be aware of this before okay-ing for a younger teen.
But Mom! Strangers can’t text me or send me pictures unless they know my username!
Well, sort of. It’s true that Kik doesn’t rely on phone numbers or e-mail addresses. But –
People can guess your username and send you messages. Case in point, I created a Kik account for the purposes of testing out the app. Since none of my friends use Kik (too old?) I have never given out my username. However, I have received Kik messages from strangers many times. These have generally been spam messages, saying things like “Congratulations! You’ve won a gift card, go to this spammy website”.
You can choose to delete unwanted messages or block the user from sending you future messages. You can also report spam, which will prevent that user from sending you messages.
I’m guessing this is a prevalent problem as it is also addressed in Kik’s help pages:
Kik and Instagram
Some Kik users use Instagram (or other social media accounts) to publicize their Kik username in their profiles or by tagging their photos. You’ll see some users with “Kik me” and then their Kik username in their profile. Even if your child or teen’s Instagram profile is private, their profile is still public. If they include their Kik username in their profile (and many do), anyone who sees their Kik username on Instagram could “hit them up” on Kik. So keep this in mind if you allow your teen to use Instagram.
Here’s another account from a concerned parent: http://www.hightechdad.com/2012/07/02/parents-beware-instagram-kik-messenger-are-a-dangerous-combination-what-social-dangers-to-check-for/
Prevent your child from downloading Kik
Kik is rated 17+ in the app store. You can adjust App Rating restrictions (at least for iPod, iPad and iPhone users) to prevent the download of adult-oriented apps like Kik. Learn how to restrict apps by rating. Once set up your child will not be able to download apps over the allowed app rating. In this example my daughter cannot download any app rated 17+. If she were to try to download Kik, the option would be greyed out.
So parents, check your child’s phone or iPod touch. If you see the Kik messenger icon, open the app and take a look at the messages. If you don’t like what you see, discuss with your child. Are they old enough and mature enough to deal with unwanted message?
A review on the iTunes page sums it up: “This app is quick easy and fun, but too many pedophiles asking me for nude pictures which almost forced me to delete this app. But it is safe as long as you don’t talk to strangers.”
5-20-2013: I’ve had to close comments on this article. Unfortunately some of the comments I’m receiving lately – which have NOT been approved and published – contain insults and profanity, or people sharing their Kik usernames. I don’t have time to police all that! I think the comments to date provide a fair assessment and plenty of opinions on either side of the “Is Kik okay for kids” question. I appreciate all who have taken the time to share their thoughts on the subject, especially teens who have done so in a respectful manner.